US group leads rest in global interference

The National Endowment for Democracy has even funded those working against popularly elected leaders and puts the activities of any China-linked bodies in the shade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 3:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 3:17am

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying and other leftist politicians were widely mocked for claiming foreign bodies were behind the Occupy movement of 2014. They exaggerated, but were not completely off the mark.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), for example, is a pretty naughty instrument of US foreign policy, and it has been funding local groups both before and after 2014. Now, though, its days may be numbered.

US President Donald Trump wants to gut NED by cutting two-thirds of its budget. The US Congress may yet reject the attempt, as the group, founded by Ronald Reagan, has enjoyed bipartisan support.

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Since its inception in 1983, it has taken up some of the propaganda work it inherited from the CIA which had suffered from years of scandals involving criminal activities overseas. Such duties include reaching out to opposition leaders and local opinion makers to manipulate election outcomes against foreign regimes both democratic and authoritarian.

Writing in The Washington Post this month, Stephen Kinzer, an international and public affairs specialist at Brown University, said the group should more properly be called the “National Endowment for Attacking Democracy”.

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It funded groups that worked against democratic leaders such as Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, and Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, according to Kinzer. Each year, it commits more than US$170 million to “labour unions, political factions, student clubs, civic groups, and other organisations”, that agitate for regime change in their countries.

By its own admission, it poured US$695,031 into Hong Kong in 2013 alone; and it had funded and continues to fund opposition groups, which it prefers to label as civic bodies and researchers.

It had, for example, sponsored and hosted “democracy advocates” Martin Lee Chu-ming and Anson Chan Fang On-sang during their visit to the US in 2014, and has reached out to “civic groups” in China, including those from Xinjiang and Tibet.

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All these are stated on its website and in published accounts.

“More recently,” wrote Kinzer, “it has sought to influence elections in Mongolia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia”, and has built “anti-Russia movements in … Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina”. Could Moscow be retaliating with its interference in the 2016 US presidential election?

China’s Confucius Institutes and Hong Kong’s China-United States Exchange Foundation have been accused of trying to influence US attitudes and policy towards Beijing. Really? They can’t hold a candle to NED.